Albeit obvious to many, there are hundreds of things that can influence our viewpoints and mindsets. The rich will have different mindsets than the poor. Males may want different things than females. This is still true in the book Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is set during the American Revolution, during which a clash between two viewpoints caused a war to break out. In this time, differences in society were exaggerated greatly, with subtle opposites grappling with each other for life, and many slaves–and other people of lower status–caught in between: especially the main character, Isabel. On one side, she is enslaved by the Locktons, who are rich and loyal to the Crown, but on the other side, she has been encouraged by a Patriot’s son, Curzon, to rebel.
The Locktons, especially Master Lockton, are leaders of the Loyalist movement. Isabel was told to eavesdrop on Master Lockton, and she found that he, along with a few other unknown people, were the main plotters of war for the Crown on the American side. Unfortunately for him, his plot to kill Washington was uncovered and he was forced to flee from New York.
Lockton risked a lot in being a Loyalist. The Patriot fire was quickly burning through the colonies, and Tories were not treated very well. However, he sought reward from the Crown, which kept him, perhaps unwisely, loyal to them. At the time, America was not yet an established nation, and could make no promise on reward–the money they printed was pretty much useless due to how small the American economy was. But with even a medium-sized award from the Crown, he could probably make a fortune, as Britain’s economy was one of the largest in those days. He also most likely thought that the British military was much stronger than that of the Americans, so it was safer to side with the British. If he decided to side with America and the British won, he would most likely be accused of treason after the cause for freedom was stamped out. However, the thing that influenced him most is what England could provide for the rich. While the Patriots wanted all people, poor or rich, to be seen as equals, in England, the rich were often treated much better than the poor. In addition, he is pretty significant within England, as one of his relations, Lady Seymour, has influential connections within Parliament and owns land in three countries.
Bellingham, on the other hand, hopes to gain liberty and freedom. While he himself isn’t very significant in the story, his son, Curzon, is often seen trying to get Isabel to join the rebel cause. He is actually able to get Isabel to uncover the plot to kill Washington, but she soon stops helping after the Patriots don’t keep their promise to help her and instead let her get branded.
As a person that wasn’t very significant in the colonies to start with, Bellingham most likely won’t get a lot from fighting for Britain, except maybe a job as a middle-ranking officer if England were to win. However, if he fought for the colonies, he could have a much better chance of finding favor within the government. While England already has an arsenal of talented people, America is barely one year old at the time. It is up to upstarts to take the helm, and Bellingham might just be one of them. In addition, without a good reason to support the British cause, peer pressure must have already overtaken him. Unlike Lockton, who has quite a significant status in the British world, Bellingham was, before the revolution, just another no-name.
Finally, Isabel: the one who just wants her freedom and nothing else. Not fighting for either side, she’ll do whatever it takes to become free. This was what motivated her to help Curzon at first: the promise of freedom. However, after her sister Ruth was sold to who-knows-where and the Patriots didn’t keep their promise, Isabel started to feel resentment to Curzon and the Patriots in general. She was very conflicted at the moment: owned by loyalists, but constantly swarmed by a Patriot. Not knowing which side to choose, Isabel starts acting of her own accord. Although she mostly obeys Madam Lockton’s orders, she once left out milk in the sun to let it sour as a symbol of rebellion.
Many believe there were two main viewpoints to the American Revolution: that of England and that of America. However, we are missing out on perhaps what became the most significant viewpoint in American society decades later: that of the slaves. They were caught in the middle of all the fighting, and were often harassed by both sides due to growing chaos. Unsure which side to take, many of these slaves became physically and mentally broken. Isabel, who was once defiant and bold, has become a quiet, do-things-behind-the-scenes kind of person. While the American Revolution changed the colonies forever, the most change happened to the slaves living in this time of conflict.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010. Buy a copy of the book here and support Stone Soup in the process.
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